By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Lee Garbett (pencils), Andy Clarke (guest art), Ray McCarthy & Keith Champagne (inks), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: Even soldiers should know better than to go into the woods at night.

The Review: To continue the main point I made in reviewing Batgirl #9, one-shot tie-ins almost invariably annoy any devoted fan of a series because they interrupt whatever groove the writer has established to spin in a completely different direction.  Sometimes, this means we enter an issue to find ourselves with a whole new plot we’re not prepared for.  At other times, this means we get a story which flies in the face of all the groundwork and tone we’ve had before.

So it feels like a bit of a gear shift for us to go from what has been an intensely driven drama and thriller to a quickie bloodbath, no drama or thrills about it.  Of course, there’s a lot to be said for pitting Damian, born assassin, against a professional assassin, but Tomasi doesn’t actually spend much time letting that play out.  Had Patrick Gleason’s amazing cover indicated the kind of stuff we’d get to see inside, then this issue would be practically a guaranteed win, no matter how thin the plot.  Instead, we get an underwhelming fight sequence on top of a plot that goes nowhere.

Most of the issue involves Damian acting as field sergeant, barking orders at a troop of army men as they defend against the one Talon.  Had he employed some clever special tactics in the doing, this scene might have worked, but really, you don’t have to be Napoleon to divide your army into segments and have them fire in succession.  In the end, Damian’s only contribution to the proceedings is to allow the soldiers to get killed off in an organized fashion, as opposed to the head-cut-off chickens they’d be otherwise—‘cause that’s America’s finest, right?

As for the reason why the Talon comes into play in the first place, we basically get a two-page summary of his beef with the real troop leader in the issue, a grudge that goes way back to 1778.  The sad part is there’s no real emotional intensity to the conflict; it all boils down to the fact that the Talon didn’t entirely succeed in his mission, and that wounds his pride a little.  You can’t even be sure the fact-drop about the Court’s land interests has any real significance to the Event.

But probably the moment that drives home the idea that this “Night of the Owls” thing was never intended to follow Tomasi’s first arc is Damian’s flippant manner of dispatching the Talon.  After all the angst he and Bruce went through after he killed off NoBody, and after their heart-to-heart about how to repress that killer’s instinct in his future as a crime-fighter, beheading a Talon so casually—with a finishing line, no less—makes all those moments seem insincere.  Damian may rationalize “That thing died a long time ago,” but we only have his word for that.

Even though the 1778 backstory doesn’t go anywhere, Clarke gives it a great, etchy look which recalls the period but makes a sword-wielding assassin look like he fits in.  While I enjoyed Garbett’s cartoony work on the last run of Batgirl, his work fit that particular series because of its comical nature.  Here, he just defeats every serious moment in the story with his loose, simple manner of portraying action and death.  A beheading drawn casually only looks silly, not horrifying, especially when the victims are two hapless campers.

Conclusion: Not only forgettable, but downright counterproductive, making this issue seem like it comes from a completely different series than what we’ve been getting.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – If there’s one redeeming moment in this issue, it’s Damian’s snappish remark to some surly soldiers, “Because this kid read Clausewitz and Jomini at the age of six while you were still trying to figure out the buttons on a Q-box, you imbecile!”